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Reviewing 2016 With 'New Yorker' Satirist-In-Chief Andy Borowitz


Now we come to one of the most pressing free press questions of our time. If someone develops an algorithm to block fake news from spreading online, will that cut us off from daily email distribution of "The Borowitz Report," which has disseminated such headlines as "Putin To Sing At Trump Inauguration," "Ben Carson Warns That Bible Makes No Mention Of Housing Or Urban Development" and "Obama Alienates Millions With Incendiary Pro-Knowledge Remarks"? Andy Borowitz's daily dose of funny fake news is distributed by the New Yorker. And we could think of no one better to reflect on the big events of the year that's now coming to a close than Andy. Welcome back to the program.

ANDY BOROWITZ: Thanks for having me, Robert.

SIEGEL: And you've chosen some moments of 2016 that stand out for you. What's been your general standard for that?

BOROWITZ: As a comedian, it's been a tough year because the real news has gotten more surreal and absurd, and my fake news, if you want to call it that, has gotten more plausible. And at some point, those two trend lines crossed.

SIEGEL: A-ha (ph). Well, a major intersection of the real and fake news was the third presidential debate. Here is one excerpt from that that you've selected as a standout moment of 2016.


DONALD TRUMP: You know, Hillary is hitting me with tremendous commercials. Some of it said in entertainment, some of it said - somebody who's been very vicious to me, Rosie O'Donnell. I said very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her.

BOROWITZ: (Laughter) Well, of course, the biggest issue facing most Americans beyond terrorism or the economy is Rosie O'Donnell and the continuing threat that she poses. Donald Trump really just couldn't shake that whole Rosie O'Donnell obsession of his. And it'll be interesting to see how he handles it. Will he devote, say, a Cabinet position to somebody to perpetually monitor Rosie O'Donnell, stop her from threatening us? It's hard to say.

SIEGEL: Well, here's another moment that you have flagged for us. It was actually something that was dug up this year, but it actually is from a 1998 commencement speech given by Dr. Ben Carson at Andrews University. In the speech, Dr. Carson offered a kind of new take on Egyptology.


BEN CARSON: Joseph built the pyramids in order to store grain. Now, all the archeologists think that they were made for the pharaoh's graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big, when you stop and think about it - and I don't think it would just disappear over the course of time - to store that much grain. And when you look at the way the pyramids are made, with many chambers that are hermetically sealed, they would have to be that way for a reason. And, you know, various scientists have said, well, you know, there were alien beings that came down, and they had special knowledge, and that's how they were - you know, it doesn't require an alien being when God is with you.

SIEGEL: Various scientists.

BOROWITZ: He's an interesting, interesting guy. I - when he was named the head of Housing and Urban Development, I searched the internet for any comments he had made on housing. And really, that little clip you have there where he talked about how the pyramids housed grain, all I could find. So that - I don't know if that gives us any direction in terms of what he wants to do with our housing policy, but it's going to probably involve grain storage and pyramids of some kind.

SIEGEL: And it won't involve extraterrestrial construction.

BOROWITZ: It won't. He thinks that's a ridiculous theory.

SIEGEL: Is there anybody out there who might give Donald Trump or Secretary Carson a run for making outrageous news?

BOROWITZ: I think that's a really interesting question. I think that this year, what we learned was that in an incredibly complicated world with lots of challenges - Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Syria - America decided in this moment of crisis to turn to a game show host. So I think if we find somebody next year who's grabbing all the headlines and is man or woman of the year, we should look to that game show host cohort, possibly Alex Trebek. Keep your eye on him.

SIEGEL: Is he still a Canadian, though?

BOROWITZ: (Laughter) He is still a Canadian. At this point, though, I would waive that part of the Constitution to elect Alex Trebek because he's so knowledgeable in so many categories.

SIEGEL: Andy Borowitz of "The Borowitz Report." Thanks for wrapping up the year with us, such as it was.

BOROWITZ: Thank you, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Robert Siegel
Prior to his retirement, Robert Siegel was the senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel hosted the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reported on stories and happenings all over the globe, and reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. He signed off in his final broadcast of All Things Considered on January 5, 2018.
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